For Immediate Release: March 28, 2007
By order of Chief Justice Jean H. Toal the Supreme Court of South Carolina just announced that it has denied Maurice Bessingers request for Certiorari in his case against Bi-Lo and other grocery chains who removed his sauce from their stores.
In a case of first impression, Mr. Bessinger sued the grocery chains under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act for unfairly removing his products from their stores based solely on the content of his personal political opinions. Mr. Bessinger sought a trial of his case by a jury which the state Unfair Trade Practices Act allows. The grocery chains tried to prevent the case from coming before a jury by filing motions to dismiss the case based on the claim that Mr. Bessingers situation does not constitute a valid cause of action under the Unfair Trade Practices Act. The first South Carolina circuit court judge to consider that question, Judge Kenneth Goode, ruled in favor of Mr. Bessinger and stated that Mr. Bessinger did have a valid case under the Act and that the case should be heard by a jury.
Subsequent decisions by another circuit court judge and the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed Judge Goodes decision and refused to allow Mr. Bessingers case to go to a jury. Mr. Bessinger asked the Supreme Court to grant Certiorari to review the decision of the lower courts and to allow his case to go to trial and be heard by a jury. By refusing to grant Certiorari, the Supreme Court has now finally denied Mr. Bessinger the opportunity to have his case heard by a jury of his peers in a court of law.
Mr. Bessinger is extremely disappointed that a state law which was passed for the sole purpose of protecting victims of unfair acts in trade or commerce was not allowed to be used to protect him against the patently unfair acts of the grocery stores in his case. The Supreme Courts decision to deny Certiorari review of this case lets stand the Court of Appeals decision which held that the grocery chains could remove Mr. Bessingers products from their stores, even though they had continuously done business with him for over forty years in some cases, for any reason they wanted to, regardless of whether the reason was based on color of skin, religious preference, gender, expression of speech, or anything else. By refusing to recognize freedom of speech as something which the Unfair Trade Practices Act can protect, the Court has effectively emasculated the Unfair Trade Practices Act and left future victims of oppressive and unfair acts committed against them by corporations and big business without the protection under the law which the legislature of South Carolina granted them over thirty years ago.
Mr. Bessinger said "his ancestors arrived in this country beginning in 1646 seeking freedom from the tyranny of Europe and fought in all of our wars since and before the country was founded for freedom, including two brothers that fought in the 1944 invasion of Normandy, France and Maurice himself having volunteered for the Korean War within two weeks after South Korea was invaded by the North Korean Communists, serving a year at the front with the famous 24th Infantry Division. And now it seems that we are back to square-one after losing all our freedoms that our forefathers won with their blood".